The European Commission has formally informed the Maltese government of its intention to take legal action against the island’s sale of citizenship to wealthy foreigners.
In an announcement today, the Commission said it had decided to send Malta a letter of formal notice over the selling of EU citizenship, which it says breaches the spirit of the Treaties of the European Union. Namely, that nationality is the result of a genuine link between a country and its people.
The Commission had already informed Malta about its intention to initiate infringement proceedings back in October 2020, giving Malta two months to submit a formal reply.
“While Cyprus and Malta remain responsible to decide who may become Cypriot and Maltese, the Court of Justice has made it clear on multiple occasions that rules on the acquisition of the nationality of a Member State must do so having due regard to EU law,” the Commission said today.
The Commission acknowledged that a new programme was launched in September 2020, however it said that doubts remained over how genuine a link existed between Malta and those buying citizenship under the new scheme.
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the Commission expected concrete explanations before deciding on the way forward.
Under Malta’s Individual Investor Programme, foreign investors are able to purchase citizenship without much need for them to set foot on Malta.
A recent investigation coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation found that on average, successful applicants spent an average of 16 days in Malta before being given a passport.
Malta will now have to reply to the Commission’s notice. If this reply is not satisfactory, the Commission may take the next step and issue a reasoned opinion on the matter.
This would be the final step before Malta is taken to court.
Reacting to the announcement, the Maltese government reiterated that citizenship was a member state national competence.
“The government will analyse the contents of the correspondence received and is willing to carry on partaking in constructive dialogue with the European Commission,” the government said.
It said it would be communicating its observations to the Commission in due course.
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